The Middle East is the common term for a region consisting of countries in Southwest Asia and, usually, at least part of North Africa. It is a relatively new term now widespread both inside and outside the region. While this essay mainly focuses on geography, it also discusses some stereotypes and realities.
Think of the Middle East and the desert is likely one of the first images to spring to mind. While there is much more geographic diversity in the region than most people realize, the desert s of the Middle East truly are some of the largest and most awe-inspiring in the world. The Sahara is the largest desert in the world, the Rub al-Khali in Saudi Arabia has awesome dunes of sand, and Iran’s arid central plateau contains the Dasht-e Lut and Dasht-e Kavir.
Why should we think so hard about geography? Why does geography matter? In addition to the intrinsic interest of the physical structures of the earth, geography is the canvas on which history—the lives of people over years, centuries, millennia—is painted.
Water security has always been an issue in the arid environment that characterizes most of the Middle East. Not until recently, however, has it been so serious. Although the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris and Jordan Rivers provide substantial agricultural, industrial and commercial support, the longevity of this scarce resource is being tested daily.
An Excerpt from Water In the Middle East: A Geography of Peace by Hussein A. Amery and Aaron T. Wolf